Last week brought the season finale of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe series to hit the Disney+ streaming service. The show recounted the origin story of Jennifer Walters / She-Hulk (Tatiana Maslany), an ordinary lawyer whose life is forever changed when she gets gamma-infused superpowers, which allow her to turn into a 6'5" superhero. As Marvel Studios worked to bring She-Hulk to life, one incredibly integral part of that was actress Malia Arrayah, who served as the on-set reference for what would ultimately be She-Hulk's CGI form. Across the nine-episode first season, fans got to see Arrayah's crutial work on the series — including through a number of awesome behind-the-scenes photos and videos she shared on social media.
In celebration of She-Hulk's first season, ComicBook.com got to chat with Arrayah about embodying the Jade Giantess in live-action. We spoke about her past fandom for all things Marvel, collaborating with Maslany on She-Hulk's physicality, and how she hopes the series promotes body diversity and body acceptance.
ComicBook.com: How does it feel now that the entire season is out into the world? What is that like?
Malia Arrayah: It feels very gratifying. It feels so exciting to just hear people, to see people messaging me and saying how much they love the show. I think for me, it's just seeing the excitement of people just taking the show and enjoying it, every different aspect of the show, and all the characters that are in it.prevnext
Going back a little bit, I know you were at the premiere. I was at the premiere. What was that experience like for you?
It was like a dream. I'm still blown away. When you've been pursuing something for so long and then suddenly it happens, and then you're living in that reality, you're seeing it all happen and seeing a project come together after you worked on it. It's an unexplainable feeling for me. It felt like I was walking through some kind of a dream. But it was so exciting. There was lots of treats. It was lots of excitement, lots of seeing people that I hadn't seen in a while. It was great to come together, and then it was an amazing show there. It was great.
What was your familiarity with the Marvel world beforehand? Were you into the movies or the comics?
I'm basically a Marvel nerd. I grew up with all brothers, and we used to grow up watching all the Marvel movies and all the action superhero movies. So I watched [the original] Spider-Man, the original Hulk. I've watched those when I was a kid, and grew up watching the coming together of the Avengers and everything. As I got older, it started to become something of a dream of mine to be working within the Marvel universe somehow. I didn't know how or what. I didn't put any restrictions on how that would happen, because I had no idea how that was going to happen, but I just wanted to do that so bad. And then it happened and I'm like, "That's crazy to me. That's insane."prevnext
What was the casting process like? Especially since this is such a specific role to fill in the show.
I'll give the long story short. For me, I'm so tall — I didn't realize that there was agencies, like a boutique agency that would be specific for very tall people and for extreme height actors. Somebody on my Facebook actually sent me a message — he's 6'7", and [he said] "Hey, you should check out this agency and send in your information." And then I looked at it, and I was like, "Oh my gosh, they're tall like me! And there's all kinds of different looking actors here! This is where I fit in." So I signed with that agency, and within a few — I think it was three or four months — my agent sent me an email like "You have a screen test for Marvel."
I wasn't told which character or show it was for. I found that out at the screen test. so I was just walking around, "Okay, so it has to be for some kind of tall character, but I don't know who or what. I'm just going to show up and whatever they ask, I'm going to just go as hard as I can go, do as best as I can."
That was in October of 2020, and I found out in January of 2021. They gave me a call. I happened to be in Washington DC at the time, and they gave me a call and they're like, "We decided to go with you for this. Would you like to accept this part?" I was like, "Yes." No hesitation. Of course I would.prevnext
Once you did accept the part, what was your research process like? Did you dive into She-Hulk comics, and get an idea of her physicality after the fact?
I did, actually. I started to read some of the very first comics that came out. I wanted to know, at least, the history of her character, and what she's all about and how she came to be. Very, very cool. Very cool. I never read a lot of comics growing up, but I was very big into characters and these kind of comic book characters onscreen. So when I read her character I was like — It's a weird thing, because I had never seen many tall female actors on screen before, or even written about or anything. I had no idea. So I was reading and I was like, "Oh my God, am I She-Hulk? That's what I look like." Obviously not the big muscles in real life, but [there were] a lot of things I could relate to, which was interesting and very fun to be part of.prevnext
You mentioned the muscles. What was the experience of wearing the muscle suit?
I really started to get into her character of She-Hulk. Obviously, she's very strong. I had to tell myself, "I am embodying She-Hulk right now, with her muscles." We did so many fittings. And there was one point, after a set day, we went to do another fitting for a different outfit. And I walked in, and [costume designer] Ann [Foley] was like, "Let's try on some pants for you. Let's try on these pants. Try on these different sizes." I had completely forgotten that I was wearing the muscle suit. So when she was giving me the sizes, she gave me a size — I think it was a 14 —and I put it on and I was like, "These fit great." I was, "What size is that?" She's like, "It's a 14." I was like, "14? I'm not a 14. I'm a 12." I got so used to the muscle suit, I forgot that I was wearing it a lot of the times, because it was so comfortable and fit into my body.
I got used to it. It was cool to walk around and see people's reaction, being like, "Wow, look at me. Ooh, look at this." I imagine it's very kind of intimidating, if I were to see somebody like that, I would be like, "Wow, that is amazing." So I got used to that. But I tended to call it the sauna suit, because I would sweat so much. I would take it off and just be drenched in sweat. It was a great workout.prevnext
What was it like working with Tatiana to craft this character, and craft the physicality of her? I've read in interviews that Tatiana watched you like a hawk to get some of the physicality down.
It was fantastic. She's probably one of — out of everybody that I've ever worked with, and I haven't worked with that many people because I'm kind of new — but for me to come onto a set like this, and to see her working, I look up to her so much. She's an extremely kind person, just extremely talented, very funny, very friendly.
She would do the scenes, and then it would be my turn to go and do what she basically did, movement-wise. Whether she was sitting, walking, standing, I would do the same thing and try to watch. They would have me at a certain point just sitting as close as I could to the monitor and to where they were filming, so I could watch and see exactly what her movements were.
I remember, there's a way that she was sitting, and I went in and tried to sit. They were like, "Here, sit like this." And I was like, "I can't physically sit like that, because I'm so big." There is a difference between the way smaller people sit, and the way larger people sit. So it's also interesting, seeing her embodying a bigger person. Because for me, I've always been very large, so for me it is just very confusing to even think about. It was very cool to be part of it. She would ask me, "Could you show me how to sit?" or "Could you show me how you would sit at this size?" To see that kind of come across on screen is very cool. I was just honored to be there.prevnext
I do want to ask what your favorite outfit was to wear. I have a feeling, based on your Twitter, that I know the answer. I'm sure it's probably the gala dress.
Yes! I think that was my favorite thing to wear, because it was just so beautiful and sparkly. I just love glitter. I really love sparkly sequins, and that dress was so perfectly fit to a 6'7" body and She-Hulk's body. And I was like, "That is absolutely fantastic." I did try it on without the muscle suit. I had to dream.
What was your favorite scene to shoot, and what was the most challenging scene to shoot?
The most challenging scene, I think from my experience there, was the Lilypad. Because we were on location — I can't remember the exact month, but it was a really hot week. And we were there for 18 hours a day. That's when I really felt like a working actress. I was like, "Wow, this is what it's like!" Because not only were we doing that, but I had the green makeup on at the time. It was just melting off my face. I thought I was looking real She-Hulk hot, and I look in the mirror and the makeup itself, it was so hot, and the makeup was melting off and I was like, "Okay, I can roll with this."
There was a stunt unit that I worked with also, at that location. It was challenging because there was just a lot of working parts. I don't have a huge background in stunt performing at all, so I'm completely involved in learning and observing and wanting to do my best. So I just noticed everything was going very fast in such a small space, and very hot. I think that was the most challenging, but also the most fun too.
My favorite, probably, was with all the quirky comic characters, Man-Bull and that whole group of people. They were all so funny. We all sat around and just kind of talked a lot. I felt like I fit in a lot with them because we were just laughing and joking around. It's kind of how my personality is, for the most part. Those were probably my favorite scenes to shoot.
I also got to meet other stunt performers who did the doubling, and I'd never seen the kinds of stunts they were doing before. I was like, "I can't believe somebody specializes in doing scorpion falls." That's nuts. That's so amazing. So it was just a lot going on, and I just loved every part of that. That was my favorite scene.prevnext
You're very vocal on social media about self-acceptance and self-love and beauty standards. How do you hope that this season of She-Hulk turns that tide?
My whole stance is just being a large woman. I've been huge. I've been tall. I embody that. I call myself a giant, because I am a giant, and that's a positive term for me. I think that people are going to receive it so positively and have been, because they've been messaging me. I've been getting messages from people, [saying] "I'm so happy to see a tall character, or tall woman on screen."
Not only is she strong and just awesome and beautiful, but what makes me so amazed about this character is that she really doesn't fully address the body image issue of being a tall woman. She just kind of is. She's like, "This is who I am." And I think that's a whole different perspective that a lot of tall people, a lot of people who are different, haven't seen. I think that helps so much, because a part of the acceptance movement of the self is seeing characters on screen that already accept themselves. I know that she has her identity crisis with Jen and She-Hulk, but when she starts to become empowered, it's just so amazing to see.
I think that people are already accepting this, and feeling inspired by just seeing a large lady really strong and empowered, and just being. I think that's the most important thing, just being yourself. I don't really know how to fully explain it and grasp it or convey it, but I feel like she just shows largeness in such a strong way and an empowering way, that inspires people and will inspire people.prevnext
You said you're a Marvel movie fan. Which character would you most want to see Jen cross over with in a future MCU thing?
Ooh! That's such a great question, because my other favorite character is actually Daredevil.
Ooh! So you got your wish, basically.
That was crazy. I was like, "I can't believe I'm sitting here across from Daredevil." Let's see. I think it would be cool to see her fighting with Black Widow.
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